"No Child Left Inside" · Conversations with Kids · Education · Growing Up New Hampshire · Local · Nature-Based Learning · Through the Power of Sport

“Dear Mary from Birmingham” Letters: Batch 3



Here are some more strong letters in defense of our challenging White Mountain trails:

Dear Mary Altz-Smith,

My friends and I frequently hike in the White Mountains during the summer. Today, we hiked Indian Head on June 20 with my summer hiking group, Girls of Summer. We are a  strong group of girls who do not have 40 years of experience, but we all have a lot of grit. The trails in the White Mountains are amazing. They give you a sense of peace. The wilderness is real. Unlike 90% of our world, the wilderness and the trails of the White Mountains is all real. It may be hard at times but that’s how life is. The woods is no different from the real world.

You have to navigate over, around, and on top of bounders that give you a challenge and a sense of accomplishment. There are streams and mud and dirt that leave a mark on you. A reminder of your accomplishment. Even though you do not cover as much distance as you would without them there distance is no the point of hiking. The point to hike is to be in the moment, to challenge yourself, and push your limits.

I can understand if you are not here to hike the way I hike, or for the same reasons. This is how the NH trails are. They are tough. If you are looking for a nice walk there are many other trail that are much easier. There is nothing wrong with taking an easier approach at hiking. Although with all due respect I find it quite insulting that you would make such complaints about our trail’s because of your ignorance towards White Mountain hiking.

Mrs. Altz-Smith, in your letter I was shocked when you started to make comments about adding man made adjustments to the trails.  In life when there is a “boulder” or struggle you aren’t just going to be able to demand “handles” to life.   


Kai Goode, Grade 10

Dear Mary Altz-Smith,

I have read your letter about the White Mountains’ disgraceful trails, and I would disagree. These trails are not meant for just athletes but for people who may want to challenge themselves or for the experience. When you start to play with nature, it doesn’t give you the feeling of nature but instead changes it to a feeling of just taking a walk. When I see nature I want to be able to see and maneuver around all of its twists and turns, or it becomes a walk from point A to point B. It would be just like going outside on the sidewalk and a certain amount from one place to another, it doesn’t give me a sense of beauty or wilderness.

My question would be what would the difference be if someone was walking in the woods or if someone was walking on the sidewalk next to the woods? Being able to make your own path or making your own progress step by step allows you to enjoy your experience. You’re also allowed to move at your own pace so there is no need to push yourself to uncomfortable speeds. Sure sometimes you fall but that makes the view at the end that much more enjoyable and it makes you feel like you’ve worked for it. When you reach the top of the mountain you can look out at the mountain you just conquered and think, man I worked for this step by step and used my own abilities to get up here. It’s as if you’re looking back and seeing how far you’ve gotten and it can make you feel that much prouder of yourself. That’s why I think that these trails aren’t meant to be easy or changed but they’re meant to be a challenge for yourself in order to appreciate the prospect of, I did it. 😃

Sincerely,  Katerina Sourgiadakis, grade 10

Dear Mary Altz-Smith,

I thank you for coming up to our neck of the woods, or our White Mountains, and taking in all of its beauty. Although, I think you really didn’t take in its beauty all that way. You know why I know this, because of your comment “The trails in the White Mountains are a disgrace.” Ma’am, our trails are not a disgrace; they are trails that are maintained, and not disturbed by man. This is nature at its finest. These trails are what people come to see when they hike the White Mountains. Hiking is not suppose to be easy; if you want a nice workout with handle bars, go to the gym and run on a treadmill.

Honestly, reading your letter made me laugh a little. If we wanted to make our trails easy, then we would have to blow up every mountain, flatten everything, put up some handlebars, and pave the trails. Oh wait a second this kind of sounds like the city, gross! Who wants that? Not me. I want to get winded from climbing up these rocks–I want to get mud all over my legs from the puddles– I want to get that feeling of “I’m good” after I saved myself from tripping over a tree root. I feel that you are missing out on the actual experience of hiking. You are suppose to be challenged, I mean these are mountains. If you were expecting a walk in the park, New York City is a few hours away, depending on traffic. But then again, the woods, it’s peaceful, and there really isn’t much traffic in the woods.

These trails are maintained, but not changed drastically. That’s the whole point of hiking, it’s so that you feel accomplished. If we go throughout our lives expecting everything to be easy, we are never going to be hard workers, and be able to take on hardships.


Mariah Cate, grade 12, Lin-Wood Public School

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